As farm machinery head to the roads to carry out the harvest, it’s important for motorists to keep a watchful eye out to avoid fatal collisions.
Every year, 1,000 farm vehicle crashes occur in the Midwest. Studies show that rear-end crashes by passenger vehicles are the most common type of accident involving ag equipment, often on roads with speed limits of 55 mph. Injuries occur 75% of the time with the non-ag driver 5 times more likely to get hurt than the ag driver. Harvest is the deadliest time with half of crashes occurring in the fall and between 2-6 p.m.
While ag equipment is increasingly being used on roadways, there are a few challenges. “First, these are slow-moving vehicles that are large in size in contrast to passenger vehicles, which are smaller in size and move at much higher speeds,” said Marizen Ramirez, PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota. “Rural roads lack traffic controls and more likely have dirt and gravel surfaces. These factors can increase the risk of crashes between ag equipment and passenger cars.”
Unfamiliar with farm equipment, drivers might misjudge the speed of these slower-moving vehicles and the time and distance necessary pass them safely. At night and in poor weather conditions, drivers should be especially vigilant since the equipment may not be as conspicuous.
Increasing the visibility of farm equipment through lighting and marking may be an effective solution in reducing crashes, according to Ramirez’s research.
“We found that states with strong policies on marking and lighting ag equipment vehicles had about 17% lower crash rates compared with states who had weaker policies,” she said. The study measured the strength of policies by the standards of marking and lighting offered by the American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
Ultimately, everyone plays a part in sharing the road safely. “For ag equipment operators, lighting and marking kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, especially for older equipment,” said Ramirez. “For drivers of passenger vehicles, increased awareness and knowledge is key to being safe on the roadway.”
Using seat belts, not drinking and driving, and reducing distractions like cell phone use while on the road do their part to keep both drivers of ag and passenger vehicles safe this season.
More information on farm vehicle safety can be found at this link.